I know we all hate the word “trigger” but I do think for people working hard to try to change dysfunctional patterns identifying situations that start a cascade of automatic reactions and labeling them “triggers” is exceptionally useful. You can plan ahead for the situation, you can notice that the automatic reactions are beginning, you can come up with alternative behaviors that might serve you better in those situations.
One of my triggers is people talking to me like I’m stupid. Now, that happens all the time. I’m a waitress. The guys in the kitchen talk to me like I’m stupid, the customers talk to me like I’m stupid, in other social contexts when people find out I’m a waitress they talk to me like I’m stupid. Being talked to you like you’re stupid is a pretty default human experience in America right now. I certainly have no monopoly on it. When I detransitioned, I was working at a clinic where co-workers talked to each other in disdainful, disrespectful ways on a daily basis. So when I detransitioned, besides the project of getting relaxed and chill about being seen as a woman, I also really wanted to get fundamentally relaxed and chill with being talked to like I was stupid.
Now, the project was not to get “ok with” being talked to like I was stupid. The project was to remain chill in that situation. Stay relaxed, not get into that cascade of emotions that was my normal reaction, stay strategic, keep in mind my goals for the interaction and keep focused on how to achieve them. I’m definitely still working on this project. Even though I don’t identify as “pretty,”and I certainly don’t feel like how I imagine pretty people feeling, it’s become clear to me I need to accept that to some other people’s eyes I look like a pretty young woman, and usually that also carries a lot of assumptions about me being dumb, me being inexperienced, and me being naive. There’s some positive assumptions too in there- people trust me with belongings and personal information to an unnerving degree.
I am not anywhere near finished with the project of staying chill when people talk to me like I’m stupid. I actually had some brief encounters being talked to this way at USPATH and it was hard to keep rolling through.
I thought about all of this this morning when I saw this buzzfeed article: https://www.buzzfeed.com/krishrach/this-sexist-cartoon-everyone-is-freaking-out-about-is-actual?utm_term=.xr6rD6B6B#.earGZdBdB
It’s a cartoon that was drawn to be used as “transformation porn.” This is a whole genre of porn, women who are hypnotized or spellbound into growing huge breasts and butt cheeks and, connected with the growth of these body parts, become stupid, compliant, child-like, hypersexual. Male characters in this kind of porn also often fall prey to some magic process that turns them into women- but not just any kind of woman, a woman with exaggerated secondary sexual characteristics, and again, a dumb woman, a compliant woman, a hypersexual woman.
When I was a freshman in high school I acted in a play that was an old russian comedy. The original characters in the play were two men, one dumb, one smart. I went to an all girl’s school, so everyone was a woman in our version. I played the dumb character. And the director put me in a costume with lots of stuffing in my chest and butt. My character was clumsy, stupid, flighty, and in our version, she also had a lot of tits and a lot of ass.
This happened at the same time in my life where I grew my own tits and ass.
What I’m feeling right now is, fuck this culture. Fuck this culture where everyone, even people who draw porn they think is “feminist,” gets off on the idea that busty women are stupid. Fuck this culture where everyone gets off on the idea that busty women are hyper sexual and compliant and have no thoughts in their head. Fuck this culture where the body I inherited gets treated as some kind of fetish costume. People talk to me about my body like I put it on in the morning. Everyday. The only way for me to not have people comment on my ass like it’s an accessory I choose to put on in the morning is for me to not leave my apartment. Fuck this culture that made my healthy, strong, yes also fucking beautiful body into a cage.
Fuck it. If the thing you masturbate to is the social conditions I have to continually navigate around, continually problem-solve around, continually recover from, fuck you. You are masturbating to some dumb, insulting bullshit and yes, it does affect me, because it reinforces the common knowledge about my kind of body, which I have to work around and figure out how to be ok through, every damn day.
This body is strong. This body has sustained me through dark goddamn times a lot of people would’ve let kill them. This body has insights and thoughts a lot of people are not smart enough to even start to approach. This body creates, this body survives, yes, this body is sexual, but unlike your stupid porn cartoon this body demands reverence from the people lucky enough to be intimate with it.
What is wrong with people that they can get off to other people’s problems? Seriously, what kind of lack of empathetic imagination sets the context for jacking it to the bullshit someone else has to deal with? Here’s this human body that suggests all these wonderful things- prosperity, health, bounty, regeneration. And people have to put all kinds of bullshit meaning on my kind of body instead- they gotta put a meaning on it where I must be stupid to be in this kind of body. No motherfuckers. No, I’m done with your reality. There’s nothing for me in your worldview if you need to reduce my body to a sex joke this way. You can jack it to cartoons of your fantasy of being degraded by looking like me. I’ll be out here in this beautiful world with the beautiful body this world decided to gift me. Knowing in every fiber of muscle, in every platelet of blood, in every charge between the nerves, the meaning of this body is that for more thousands of years than I can conceive of mothers kept their daughters alive with the intention that someday I would stride this world resplendent in their gifts.